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Web Loggs Essay

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Blogs are a form of self–presentation on the Internet and variations like video blogs (vlogs) have expanded with the support of sites like YouTube. This study examines the culture of video blogging — its rhythm, language, and communication style. Utilizing Goffman’s (1959) notions on the presentation of self as dramaturgical, multi–stage and multi–audience processes, this textual analysis of ten personal vlogs deconstructs the structure of each site, text, links, as well as the videos and their comments to identify dominant modes of communication. Three dominant themes emerge, reflecting employment of vlogs as diaries, media for identity expression, and a means to indulge in narcissism. Vloggers emphasize one or more of these modes in creating their online performances. Contents

Discursive themes

With the advancement of video–hosting sites like YouTube as well as the expansion of broadband Internet, the distribution of video online is easier than ever. As YouTube’s slogan articulates — one can now “broadcast yourself” (Garfield, 2006). This study presents an examination of user–produced content, focusing on personal video blogs (vlogs). Vlogs are sites where authors post stories and/or information about themselves in the form of video, rather than text, as traditional blogs include. They are public spaces for self–expression where authors control the content published. According to David Sifry (2007), there are about 120,000 new blogs are created every day — or approximately “1.4 blogs created every second of every day.” Blogs and their descendents — podcasts and vlogs — are unique in the way that their authors produce them and the way in which viewers engage with them. Vlogs do not require teams of editors; authors control content and timing of publication. Audiences engage with these sites by both reading and viewing them as well as commenting directly about content. Traditional gatekeepers do not exist on blogs and vlogs. No longer are video–watching audiences constrained to Hollywood’s productions for entertainment (Garfield, 2006). This qualitative analysis of vlogs traces how ten personal video bloggers (vloggers) construct spaces for presenting and broadcasting themselves to audiences. Vlogs are valuable because they tell us about ourselves as well as represent a new form of self–expression, rooted in our today’s communication environment. Changes in communication technology affect societies on multiple levels. Just as the development and adoption of the printing press accelerated the dissemination of knowledge in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, blogging and vlogging are having the same effect now. On the Internet the publication and sharing of text, audio, and video is not only easy, it is nearly instantaneous and it comes at little cost to users. Scholars have started researching blogging and online video, like YouTube, but they have yet to turn their attention to vlogging. As a descendent of blogs and as a way to tell stories through video, vlogging is an important and interesting area of study. Given their potential for future research this study seeks to understand ten personal vlogs as spaces of self–presentation. Blogs, vlogs and self–presentation

As the blogosphere expanded, some — often bloggers themselves — suggested that blogs would replace elements of mainstream media (Levy, 2002). This is an overstatement when one bears in mind communications history — no new communications medium has ever eliminated older media completely (Couch, 1996; Levy, 2002; Shafer, 2005). Computers and the Internet have not eradicated television; television has not made radio extinct; and, radio did not vanquish newspapers. Blogging is not a “threat” and will not destroy traditional or mainstream media, but it may cause them to evolve (Keren, 2004; Levy, 2002). As Poster (2002) reminds us, even the Internet itself is not utterly new, nor does it “mark the first reshuffling of the basic conditions of cultural formation… .” [1] The Internet is a new vehicle for very human and basic activities — communication and expression. With the advancement of “produsage” media like blogs, individuals are “continually co–creating” their identities. These activities cannot help but have a “profound effect on our future” [2], with more voices contributing to the formation and maintenance of cultural identities. Although there has been some scholarly interest in journalistic and politically–infused blogging, there has been little research on blogs, or vlogs, as online diaries. A Pew Internet and American Life Project study revealed that most bloggers use the medium as a kind of online journal, not considering them to be a form of journalism (Lenhart and Fox, 2006). Being that the majority of blogs are personal (Lenhart and Fox, 2006; Papacharissi, 2007) and that there is even less scholarly research on the vlog genre, this study combines both interests. Free video hosting sites like YouTube, Internet Archive, and OurMedia support this increased interest in and publication of vlogs. However, rather than only featuring text, as in a blog, a vlogger posts videos or short films about any topic of her choosing. Each video is often accompanied by a brief textual description as well as links to comments made by viewers. Blog hosting sites, like Blogger, do not host video. Vloggers using Blogger post their videos on a site like YouTube and then post a link to the video on their blog. Viewers can subscribe to a vlog and each time the vlogger posts a new video the viewer’s iTunes, or other software, will automatically download it. Vloggers appear to be working out what the expectations are for a vlog. In 2006, there was a controversy over one vlog — Lonelygirl15 — who, it was revealed, is not actually a techie, lonely, fifteen–year–old girl named Bree, but a twenty–something actress working with a small production crew producing the vlog (Heffernan and Zeller, 2006). This revelation caused a small scandal in the blogosphere early in the fall of 2006 because vloggers tend to be techies that conceptualize, film, edit, and upload their own videos, rather than productions with writers, producers, and actors. Finding out that Lonelygirl15 was a professional production broke a trust with the audience that was led to believe otherwise (Heffernan and Zeller, 2006; Kurtz, 2006; Christian, 2009). However, with the acquisition of YouTube by Google, perhaps the days of primarily grassroots vlogging will give way to Big Media (Garfield, 2006). Conceptual framework

Researchers frequently question the import of introspective expression on blogs, vlogs, and general Internet forums, finding that “much of what is said is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” [3] Yet through this fragmented and disorganized content, we see that when people are given the chance to create public content “they choose…to talk about what the serious business of the human experience — life, loss, belonging, hope for the future, friendship, and love — means to them.” [4] The contemplative introspection present on blogs and vlogs is also self–expression addressing the larger existential questions of life. There is little scholarly research on vlogs, thus this study’s objective is exploratory and involves understanding the culture of vlogging — its rhythm, language, and communication style. This textual analysis of ten personal vlogs combines previous literature on self–presentation, with an emphasis on Goffman’s (1959) seminal work on the presentation of self. Goffman (1959) argued that indivudals present themselves differently in different social situations. Goffman’s (1959) ideas are rooted in theatrical metaphor, suggesting that in social interaction people are, in a sense, on stage. If there is a stage for performance, then there must also be a “backstage” where individuals cease performing. Goffman (1959) suggests that this “backstage” is where one’s true self is revealed because there is no audience. This study treats vlogs as stages where multimedia performances takes place. We will examine content of vlogs to understand what the connections between vlog stages to “backstages”. In this study, a vlog is understood as a deliberately constructed presentation of self, a mirror of the author or creator of the vlog. Vlogs represent a meeting point where a vlogger presents herself to an audience. When one first opens a vlog it is as if the author is introducing herself to another individual. By exploring a site and its videos, viewers develop an impression of a given author — a constructed image created by the vlogger. The vlog audience, operating in interpersonal interaction akin to Goffman’s (1959) roles, judges vlog creators based on the information available in a given vlog. Vlogs may appear to be one–way communication — the vlog creator posts a video and the audience examines it — but interaction develops if audience members utilize the comments section available on most vlogs. While the vlogger may imagine a certain interpretation and response by the audience, the audience in turn can create a response that may nor may not harmonize with the vlogger’s expectations. In social situations, we respond to specific situations and colleagues, adjusting our behavior (Goffman, 1959). However, in vlogging and blogging, it is difficult for vloggers to predict every individual reaction to their site — vloggers can only make educated guesses. Vloggers must present themselves in a way that they hope w...

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